Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Giveaway: Xanxa is giving away a mobi copy of her book “The Sunshine Advocate.” Comment on this post for a chance to win!
Today, Xanxa Symanah – Xanxa Symanah Wallace has always been involved in creative writing. In fact, before she learned to read and write, she would make up stories, telling them to anyone who would listen, or simply reciting them to herself when she lacked an audience.
She is also a poet, having had some of her poetry published in an anthology which was brought out by a Brasilian University publishing house. Some of her poems have also featured on drug abuse awareness websites, youth club websites and other creative communities online.
Her main areas of work are epic and urban fantasy. She has written seven fantasy novels with the collective title The Virian Chronicles and on offshoot novels collectively entitled The Virian Companions. She is currently working on another series of offshoot novels called The Vyrdigaan Prophecies. She has also written one detective novel and published a collection of her dark poetry.
She is married to the home-based progressive rock musician Ian Vincent Wallace and she wrote a novella to accompany one of his albums, The Presence, telling the story of the concept in her own words. The novella was distributed with the first batch of CDs released but is now only available in ebook format.
Besides creative writing, she has a keen interest in fantasy and science-fiction movies and TV shows, travel, languages and music.
Thanks so much, Xanxa, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
Xanxa Symanah Wallace: Definitely. Due to having been read bedtime stories before I learned to read, I already loved books. I learned to read ahead of most of my class at school and the teacher allowed me to skip some of those “learning to read” books because I didn’t need them. As a child, I loved fairy tales and animal stories. I think that’s probably what led me into reading fantasy.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
XSW: I’ve always made up stories. I found out I was good at it when I got high marks for what was called “free writing” at primary school (I think you call it elementary school, from age 5 to 10). Also, when I was about 8 or 9, I let my Dad read one of my poems. He said that my ability with words was frightening. I took that as a huge compliment.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
XSW: I love the pure escapism of the speculative genres. In my early teens, I tried writing sci-fi but discovered I wasn’t much good at it. In my later teens, I tried writing old-school detective stories but somewhere along the way I started adding elements of fantasy. I’d always loved the fantasy genre as a reader and I just fell into it during the course of my writing. My fantasy novels take place in a modern day setting and I often bring in elements from other genres, such as detective stories, prison and courtroom dramas, multi-generational family sagas and Godfather style gangster movies. I have also written one murder mystery which borders on paranormal and I’ve published a collection of dark poetry. Fantasy remains my favourite genre to write in and I can’t imagine swapping to any other genre.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
XSW: My books tend to be long. I take around nine months to write the first draft, then I leave it aside for a couple of months while I work on something else. That way I can come back to it with fresh eyes when I’m ready to revise it. The revising and editing stages take another two to three months. I’d say it takes me at least a year to produce a completed book ready for publishing.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
XSW: Definitely a plotter. I have a clear outline for the main storyline before I start writing a new book. Side plots will suggest themselves along the way, but I always stick to the main plot.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
XSW: That they wished they could live in my fictional universe. It was in a private message rather than an actual review. That reader has given me several glowing reviews as well.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
XSW: “Probyt’s Progress” is one of my multi-generational sagas, so the main theme is how the characters are changed by their various life experiences. I also deal with issues of abuse and prejudice. As to how well I’ve achieved them, that’s for my readers to decide.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
XSW: As I’ve already mentioned, the book deals with various abuse issues, including alleged rape and the beating of a small child. These are sensitive topics and I don’t want readers thinking I’ve only included them for shock value. I set out to show the consequences of such acts of violence and how they impact a person’s whole life from a psychological point of view.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
XSW: I’ve mainly done office jobs. For over 20 years I worked as a legal secretary. You’ll find plenty of lawyer characters in my novels and that’s also why I’ve included courtroom scenes in “The Sunshine Acolyte” and “Malachi’s Law”. There will be another courtroom scene in a forthcoming book which is still in the revising stages. I also worked as a waitress for a short time, so I’ve included characters who are involved in the catering and hospitality industries in some of my novels.
JSC: What are you working on now?
XSW: I’m writing two collections of short stories based in the same fictional universe as my main fantasy novels. I felt that I needed a change from writing lengthy multi-generational sagas because I didn’t want them to get stale. Writing short stories is an entirely different discipline and I’m finding it refreshing. Some of the short stories are based on peripheral events which take place outside the timeline of my main novels and get referred to in passing during the course of those novels. I’ve also developed some of my deleted scenes. The other thing I’m doing is spotlighting some of my universe’s cultural figures, such as musicians, sports stars and other entertainers and writing their origin stories from before they became famous.
And now for Xanxa’s new book: Probyt’s Progress:
First of the Vyrdigaan Prophecies, telling the back-story of Parsivaal Probyt.
Parsivaal had always known his mother hated him. Everyone at the Beryk enclave believed him to be the product of rape. A chance meeting with a woman claiming to be his grandmother helps him to learn the truth of his origins. Through her, he discovers another branch of his family. His new-found relatives show him love and introduce him to a radically different culture and lifestyle.
As he grows up, his life choices lead him away from his homeworld of Malvania and into the unknown. Having come from a remote enclave, he finds it difficult to adapt to life in a busy city. An unlikely travelling companion becomes his guide and helps him adjust to life outside the enclave.
Dreams and visions compel him to solve a mystery and set him on a path taking him away from his new life and onwards to further adventures.
Travel with him as he is propelled towards his destiny by a series of perplexing and frustrating events.
She closed the door and returned to her parlour, horrified to see Kvyrt Elygiak sitting on her couch, reclining casually as though he were at home in his own quarters. He was wearing his usual crumpled grey nightshirt and maroon silk lounging robe. “Good evening to you, dearest Ghenlys” he said by way of greeting, giving her what looked like a leering grin.
“Why have you come here?” she demanded, glaring at him. “Surely you would prefer to be over at the settlement with my son?”
“Aye, I’ll go over there shortly” he confirmed, raking his fingers through his matted beard. “But first I have some news which I know will please you immensely. This senile old reprobate will take his leave soon, off to join the ranks of the Ascended Masters. I shall trouble you no more, dear Ghenlys, and I expect you to celebrate my departure with unrestrained glee. Perhaps you will dance naked at my memorial service, eh? Will you drink and smoke yourself giddy? Maybe even sing a song or two in my honour, eh?”
“I be surprised that the Ascended Masters would want you” Ghenlys remarked acidly. “Surely you can’t be considered a good role model for future generations. You’ve corrupted my son and no doubt many other students here. You even threatened to have me thrown out of this enclave. Tis hardly behaviour becoming of an Ascended Master”.
“Oh, they allow all kinds of trash through nowadays” Kvyrt said, giving one of his trademark barking laughs. “And as for threatening to throw you out, I seem to recall that your own father made the same threat to you some years ago”. Ghenlys made an irritated sound in her throat, unwilling to bring herself to acknowledge the bitter truth of the old man’s words.